Christina’s Coffee Talk: Jay Keith (Part 2)

When I conducted my Coffee Talk with Jay Keith, there was one question/answer that I believed deserved it’s own post. Everyday we read articles and blog posts about personal branding. Jay and I have discussed this on numerous occasions. He comes from a journalist background which I believe brings a whole new perspective to the subject. So I asked him, “Are people too serious about personal branding within the SM world? Is it overrated/overused? What would you consider your personal brand?” And here is what Jay had to say:

“Personal branding” is a topic that I really struggle with to be honest. My own professional career path has essentially taught me to never actually “be the story” in any way, shape or form. As a journalist for a number of years, I was taught that the second you become part of the story, you’re not doing your job. There was no room for ego (at least at the time) in the stories I was writing. It was about getting it right, doing it well, and moving on to the next one. In PR I think that the training was much the same before SM came into the picture. You were supposed to be behind the curtain, pulling the strings to get the right kind of results for your clients, and be happy at the end of the day when you were successful. The only pat on the back you were going to get was from your clients or bosses, and that was good enough. But social media has really changed all that, and I would argue not for the better in a lot of ways.

I think that social media has provided a lot of public relations people an outlet to get the credit or the accolades, or just some much needed attention that they never got in the past. I guess that for many, that “fifteen minutes of fame” will never come, so social media fills that void in some ways. Now I don’t think that every PR person is out there touting their own accomplishments and saying “look at me” but in a lot of ways, SM is being abused for personal gain and vindication rather than as a tool to accomplish a goal on behalf of your client or company. I just think that it’s a very fine line to walk between being a thought leader who truly shares knowledge and passion with a broad audience, and someone who’s really just looking for a bevy of virutal handshakes and hugs about how great they are.

Those that have established themselves as a thought leader who really do educate, listen, and help others are great. I can name a dozen off the top of my head who I respect and am happy to follow. But I think the great ones never have a hint of “look at me” in their day to day activities online. They basically let others do the talking for them – if you like their stuff and what they are saying, they know you’ll likely pass it along. But some really aggressively push their stuff and do everything they can to get eyeballs. That’s the kind of thing that bothers me most of the time.

I personally don’t have a blog (though have thought about starting one, admittedly) and try to give the people who follow me on Twitter a bit of everything – PR, marketing, sports, entertainment, day to day stuff, etc. As for what I would consider my own “personal brand” I guess only the people who follow me can answer that one. I certainly can’t. Really the only perception that I worry about is the one that exists inside the walls of Vistaprint, and I’ll stack the team’s fantastic results up against anyone’s.

I would love to hear what you’re thoughts are on this subject. Do you agree or disagree with Jay? Feel free to answer the question I posed in the comments below.

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  • I was going to link to my personal blog's post on this topic, but then I realized that it would maybe be too ironic.

    In short: let's keep throwing parades for other people and not ourselves!

  • I've always been uncomfortable with the idea of “personal branding.” I just want my work and thought process to speak for itself. Yeah, eyeballs on my blog entries are nice, but I'm not going to incessantly drive traffic to my site just to increase my page view stats.

  • @jaykeith

    Great point about the thought process speaking for itself. And it's funny because so often we hear, “if you've got good content, people will always find you.” Well for every person who says that, there's another 10 who incessantly promote themselves or their content (which may or may not be good). It's a fine line to walk, but sometimes I feel like even bad content get passed around just because the person who wrote it is really aggressive, and their friends and following will pass along anything that they do. That's not helpful, it's the Pied Piper Syndrome. And the more it happens, the less great content and information we'll see through SM channels.

  • I agree with the Pied Piper Syndrome. Personally, I've noticed that I get page views on my blog, but no one comments on the entries. My issue at the moment is that no one is offering comments or constructive criticism, which is crucial for a conversation and for my growth as a PR professional (or wannabe) and as a blogger. I know I need to write more and I may need to tinker with the format a bit, but if my writing is just not that exciting or insightful, just tell me! I'll be hurt, but get over it and start asking how to fix it.
    Am I asking for too much?

  • Constructive criticism – something we all need. I couldn't agree with you more. Give feedback whether its negative or positive. It will help us learn and let us decide if we should be doing things differently.

    I don't think your asking too much. I also think we're our own worst critics though thats why I turn to friends to bounce ideas off of.

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  • LindsTR


    This is an EXCELLENT topic, and I completely agree with what you've written. There are many people who I follow on Twitter who seem to just be pushing their own agenda, and it's all about “me, me, me.” I follow them because they often have interesting content, but it bothers me that it's all about “them.”

    I think it's great that you share different types of info, from PR to entertainment to personal stuff. Sometimes I just want to tell people to lay off the SM and PR stuff for two seconds and give us some insight into who they are as a person BEYOND PR & SM!

    Thanks again – this is a great post.


  • @jaykeith


    It's a topic that everyone seems to have an opinion about, so when Christina asked me, I was passionate but had to be careful not to be too blunt, because truthfully it's different for everyone.

    I think that everyone has to strike their own balance for themselves, but also their audience. If you find yourself losing followers or that people aren't engaging with you as much, maybe you've crossed that line of acceptable “personal branding.” For others, it's just not that important at all. But you're right, the human element is what connects all of us, so it's nice to hear a little bit of everything.

    Thanks for the comment!


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